Monday, 20 May 2019

How the Solar Supercapacitor Can Make for More Efficient Energy Production


Times are changing, technology is developing, and the world is continuing to search for renewable energy sources that are clean and efficient. Enter into the equation the palm-sized, solar-cell powered supercapacitor. This device was developed by a group of scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles and has the ability to produce electricity and store energy. It offers a great alternative to hydrogen power which is only a clean option if not derived from methane that involves carbon dioxide emission. Hydrogen is also not as easily mass produced, as efficient in energy conservation or as low cost as the supercapacitor.

How Does the Supercapacitor Work?

The supercapacitor stores energy and a hydrogen fuel cell that generates electricity. This enables people to make fuel and electricity with a single device. It has three electrodes, the firsts and second serve as the positive and negative terminals, and the third harvests solar energy electrically or uses it to chemically split water molecules to generate hydrogen. The electrodes are nanostructured which increases their surface area or the area in contact with water increasing energy conversion or hydrogen generation efficiency. The electrodes also enable the capacitor to store a higher amount of energy.

The device is make up of nickel, iron and cobalt which are more abundant in nature and therefore cheaper than platinum, making the device a more affordable hydrogen-fuel-cell-supercapacitor hybrid.

Usefulness of the Supercapacitor

The supercapacitor can be useful in many applications that will make for a lower cost, cleaner, more efficient source of energy. For example, it could bring down the cost of hydrogen powered cars since hydrogen is a relatively inexpensive fuel that also puts no pollutants in the air. Head of the UCLA study Richard Kaner explains, “Hydrogen is a great fuel for vehicles. It is the cleanest fuel known, it’s cheap and puts no pollutants in the air-just water; and this could dramatically lower the cost of hydrogen cars.”

Supercapacitors can also aid the hydrogen vehicle revolution by providing convenient places to fill up. While progress is being made on creating accessible hydrogen stations for consumers, users of the supercapacitor can use solar power to produce fuel for their vehicles almost anywhere, including rural and remote areas.

The devices also open doors to allow harvested solar energy to be stored as hydrogen which can help facilitate the process of energy storage for the grid. Even though the device is a bit small for this application, researchers are optimistic that the product could be easily scaled up for this purpose.

Other than hydrogen powered cars and power grids, the capacitor can also be useful in energy storage in computer and smartphones.

It is clear that this supercapacitor device is the way of the future making strides for the convenient use of hydrogen powered vehicles and an alternate form of solar powered electricity. It will be interesting to see how this tiny device will serve to help humanity in the fight for energy conservation. This is just one of the many developments that is a sign of a more efficient future.